It’s the Debriefing that Matters!

The DebriefThe first question was “How do you feel?”

Smug. That’s how I felt when I watched two people bid on a $10 bill.  The “winning” bid was $34. Human nature is so predictable!

You may be thinking, What? $34 for a $10 bill.  What’s wrong with that picture?

The “$10 Auction” was an activity during a workshop presented by Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan at the American Society of Training and Development, Twin Cities Chapter conference last week.  There were just a few rules for the activity:

1. The minimum bid is $5

2. The bids increase in $1 increments

3. The highest bidder receives the $10 and pays the amount bid

4. The second highest bidder also pays the amount bid, but does not receive anything.

The bids went past $10 as the bidders tried a strategy to “cut their losses,” with the workshop presenter saying things like, “If you quit now, you lose $33, but if you bid again, you can win.”

In this case, the second bidder stopped at $33 and paid $33 for nothing.  The winning bidder paid $34 for a $10 bill.  That makes $67 paid in total for a $10 bill.

The workshop presenter made a big show out of collecting money, even taking the person’s credit card (although I don’t think the card was actually charged).

As the activity ended,  I wondered if I was in the wrong profession! I also wondered what the point was.

Thiagi explained that the point was not so much in the activity, but that the activity provided a chance to practice “debriefing.”

“People don’t learn from experience; they learn from reflecting on their experience.”–“Thiagi” Thiagarajan

The reflection, or debriefing, is where learning takes place.

Thiagi gave us 6 debriefing questions (you don’t have to use them all). But by using some of them after an activity, participants reflect on their experiences, gain valuable insights and share them with the other participants.

6 Questions for Debriefing

1. How do you feel?  This is a good first question, especially if an activity evokes strong feelings.  After talking about feelings, participants are in a better state of mind to continue debriefing.

2. What happened? This question prepares participants for deeper analysis.

3. What did you learn? This question enables participants to list and share insights.

4. How does this relate?  This question enables participants to discuss the relevance of the activity to the real world.

5. What if —? This question, with a new context or scenario, requires participants to speculate how people’s behaviors would change in a different context.

6. What next? This question encourages participants to suggest real-world strategies for the future.

The next time you consider doing an activity, also consider if the activity would benefit from a debrief and try out some of the debriefing questions.

The Call-Back: A Comedy Technique for Speeches

The Call-Back

Would you like a simple speech technique that will create a closer connection with your audience, help them remember your material, and possibly get a laugh?

Try using the “call-back.”

The call-back is a stand-up comedy term that means to refer to an earlier joke that got a laugh.

For example, at a recent Humor Mill Toastmasters meeting, Dennis Carney, a local stand-up comedian, had a piece about performing in Las Vegas.  He talked about how exciting it was to see his name on billboards and on the side of every fifth or sixth cab that went by.  “Of course, it wasn’t my real name.  It was my stage name: Prime Rib $9.95.”  That punch line, which he delivered better than I am describing, got a good laugh.  Later, he told another story about being in Las Vegas, and having a cop knock on his door.  When he answered the door, the cop addressed him as “Mr. Rib.”  That call-back to the previous joke got another laugh.

A call-back in a speech does not have to refer back to something funny in order to be an effective call-back.  It does need to refer back to something that will connect emotionally with the audience.  You can call-back to a previous story in your own presentation or to something that occurred previously at an event (something that happened or something that another speaker said that created an emotional experience).

The call-back can be an effective closing summary technique if you have structured your speech with a story for each main point.  In closing, you can refer briefly to the story and connect that with the story’s point. For example, in one speech, I have a story about how difficult my mother was when she was ill, but how I learned to “listen from my heart” as she lay dying.  At the end of the speech, I call-back to that story: “From my mother I learned to listen from my heart.”

Using the call-back to refer to something that happened or what someone said prior to your speech creates a connection with your audience because that comment is unique for them and shows you were paying attention.  (Tip for Toastmasters: this can be a very effective Table Topics technique).

Pay attention for moments that you can call-back to connect with your audience!

Golden Opportunities for Speech Material

Homeless ManI was minding my own business, reviewing my speech notes at a high top table on the ground floor of the RiverCentre Convention Center last week.  In a few minutes, I would be heading upstairs to the ballroom to deliver the closing keynote for an association conference.

A scruffy-looking man reeking of alcohol approached me.  I could smell him from three feet away.

“Are you having a good day?” he asked.

I smiled politely, knowing what was coming, and answered, “I’m having a great day.  I’m preparing to give a speech in a few minutes.”

We chatted for a minute and then he asked the question I was expecting, “I don’t suppose you could spare a few dollars, to help me out?”

Now, I sometimes give money to beggars, but never to those clearly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

I packed up my things and said, “Not today. I have to go. Have a good day.” And I turned and left, hoping he wasn’t following me.

By the time the escalator reached the second floor, it dawned on me–I had speech material!

In fact, I had speech material to incorporate into my keynote that day!  In one part of my keynote, I talk about a variation of the Golden Rule, the Platinum Rule:  Treat others the way they want to be treated.  The Platinum Rule has some challenges. If you treat people the way they want to be treated, that could be in opposition to your own values and also could cause them harm. I could illustrate that with the experience I just had. The panhandler wanted money, so if I applied the Platinum Rule, I would have given him money.  However, if I had done so, that would have been against my values and possibly harmful to him.

The story was relevant, personal and so fresh, it could have happened to any of them.

When the beggar had approached me, I had been annoyed.  But, in retrospect, he had given me a golden opportunity to relive a story with my audience to help a point stick.

Life gives you golden opportunities all the time, if you recognize them.  The next time something bad, or even just interesting happens to you, realize that you have been given the gift of speech material.

Tailoring a Keynote: Making the Material Connect

People in your audiences want to feel special, to feel that you understand them and their needs.  You can create a presentation that connects with a particular audience by tailoring your existing content to connect with them.

Would you like to “look behind the curtain” and see my process?  It may give you some ideas that you can use for your own presentations.

I recently prepared a “new” presentation that I am giving this week to an association of people in veterinarian medicine.

Several months ago a representative of the organization called me to inquire if I might be available to give the closing keynote at their conference.  She had found me online and watched my demo video.  We discussed the date, what they were looking for as a closing keynote, info on the audience size and composition, and which of my programs would be a good fit.  She agreed to my fee (it was a local conference, so there would be no travel or hotel costs).

I sent her a pre-program questionnaire to confirm details and to obtain additional information on issues the audience faced.  This included getting contact information for a few people so that I could have brief chats with them on their issues as related to my topic.

As it turned out, the program she had chosen was one of the ones I hadn’t actually written.  It was just on my website to see if anyone was interested in it.  Well, now someone was, so I needed to prepare something.  I already knew that a lot of the content would be recycled from content in other presentations.

A month prior to the conference, I called 3 audience members and took notes on the interviews.  I made post-it note highlights and saved them to use in planning later.

Two weeks prior to the conference, I had a keynote planning session.

First I reviewed the pre-program questionnaire and interview notes:

Pre-program questionnaire and interviews


Then, I went to the conference website and printed out the brochure, which first gave me an overview of my place in the conference, and what other people were speaking on:

Conference program

I noted that I actually knew the person giving the opening keynote, and was familiar with his topic.  I also noted the topics for 5 tracks for the breakout sessions (Regulatory, Marketing, Finance & Technology, Customer Service, and Human Resources).  I was planning on attending the entire conference and I was the last speaker.  As the last speaker, I probably could tie everything together, with a simple statement along the lines of “as you deal with challenges with regulatory issues, marketing . . . you can build greater success with better communication in all those areas.”

At the website, I also noted the theme was “Building Blocks of Success” and the color scheme was gray background with orange accents.  I could use that information to tailor the visuals.

Then, I laid it all out . . .

information summaryThe “Facts for Customization” were the post-it note highlights from the interviews with audience members and from the pre-program questionnaire.  I wouldn’t use many of them directly, but they informed my content.

The “Promised Content and Handout:”  I had sent a description of the program (which I confirmed was the description in the brochure) and a handout before I had actually worked on the presentation.  They needed the handout early, so I determined the 4 supporting points I would make and put those on the handout.  My presentation would have to follow the handout.

The “Source of Material:”  almost all of the content came from my most recent book, The Respect Virus.

“Previous Presentations:” I wouldn’t be starting from scratch!  For 3 of my 4 main points, I had already developed presentation modules that I used in previous presentations.

I had the broad outline, and even some of the specifics for my presentation.  Now I had to think about customization.  The first place to customize was the opening.  I decided to open with 2 short stories about my experiences with veterinarians and communication (which put them in a positive light).  I dug up the relevant pet pictures:

Rat on girl's head


Then I needed to make a promise.  My promise was simple:  If you have better conversations with clients and staff you can have better business with less stress.

I extended on the promise by asking a few “Do you want . . .” questions and then transitioned to previewing the 4 points, using the theme of “Building Blocks of Success” by using the variation, “Building Blocks of Communication,” animating the blocks to come in one at a time:

Building blocks of communicationAnother area that I customized was in an audience activity, in which I have the audience work in groups of 2 or 3 applying conversational techniques to cases relevant to their work:

Moving from Gridlock to Dialogue

And then, of course, I had to practice!  Although, my slot is an hour, I really can only have about 45 minutes of material, as a little time will be taken with an introduction and also at the end, the organizers want a few minutes to wrap up and give away some gift cards.  As part of my practice, I made a one-page sheet with notes . . . just in case the PowerPoint didn’t work!

This is my typical process for preparing for a presentation.  What is most helpful for you?  What do you do differently?



6 Ways to Use a Flip Chart in Training

Flip charts are a fun, engaging way to provide participant involvement that leads to understanding and retention.

Last week I attended a two-day Bob Pike Group “Train-the-Trainer” Boot Camp seminar and learned several easy ways to incorporate the use of a flip chart in training.  Six of my favorites were:

  • Ground Rules
  • Road Map Agenda
  • “Ask It” Basket
  • Dot Voting
  • Idea Collection
  • Window Pane Grid

Ground Rules–the class ground rules were literally taped to the ground.  Participants couldn’t miss them walking in:

Ground rules

Road Map Agenda–the agenda was presented as a road map:

road map

 “Ask It” Basket–Off-topic questions could be written on sticky notes and placed in the “Ask It” Basket to be addressed later, so as not to interrupt the concept development:

Ask it basket

Dot Voting–Near the start of the seminar, each person got 4 dot stickers to indicate which 4 topics were of greatest interest:

dot voteIdea Collection:  This was also an activity to help form a learning group.  Each table of participants formed a group that came up with a group name and tag line.  Then, from the concepts we had covered, we each contributed our 2-3 favorite concepts to write on sticky notes: Flip chart idea collectorWindow Pane Grid–This technique of using a graphic plus a key word works as a priming mechanism for the brain to recall stored information.  In this particular exercise, the table groups each came up with their own icon to go with the key words and then each table group looked at other groups’ icons. If another group’s icon was deemed to be better, the group could copy it and replace their earlier icon with the new one. Using sticky notes made it easy to change out the icons:


While a flip chart may not work for very large groups (Bob Pike has successfully used them for groups of 80-100 people), they are a versatile resource in training–just add sticky notes and markers (scented Mr. Sketch markers are pleasant to use).

Flip out for flip charts at your next training!